Kobo announced today that it has updated its Kobo E-Reader device (should we call it the Kobo 2?) to add Wi-Fi wireless connectivity, a faster processor (which enables faster page turns), a better e-Ink screen, and a built-in dictionary (finally!). It is available from Kobo for pre-order now for $139.
Kobo says the other features / improvements include:
- Wi-Fi wireless connectivity
- A faster processor that enables “2.5x faster” page turns (an impressive claim; the original Kobo was chastised for slow page turns)
- A “new, sharper, 16-greyscale, 6” e-Ink screen,” though not the higher-contrast e-Ink Pearl screen being used in the new Kindle 3
- A built-in dictionary to look up word definitions — a must-have feature notably missing from Kobo’s original offering
- 1 GB of built-in memory, with an SD card slot for additional storage
- Longer battery life
For more info, please see my post about the original Kobo E-Reader. As before, the Kobo 2 is lightweight, at just 7.8 ounces, and has relatively simple controls. On the minus side, it is missing some of the advanced features of the Kindle 3 or Nook — including text-to-speech, 3G wireless connectivity, or a keyboard/keypad for note-taking.
The Kobo reads e-books in ePub format and is compatible with free library e-books, which is a big plus. Kobo is affiliated with Borders, and this new e-reader will be sold in Borders stores. Readers can buy compatible e-books from the Borders or Kobo online stores, and can read e-books not only on the Kobo, but on a variety of reading apps for computers and Apple iOS devices. (UPDATE: The Kobo e-readers still work fine even after the Borders bankruptcy, and Kobo is not affected.)
When the Kindle 2 and Nook were $259, the Kobo came in as an appealing alternative that lacked some features, but was small and light and easy to use and cost only $149. At that price, it made a reasonable entry-level model that might appeal to some readers, even though some reviews chastised it for very slow page turns and its missing features. Now, the page turns appear to be much faster, and the addition of Wi-Fi and a built-in dictionary go a long way to leveling the feature playing field. Unfortunately for Kobo, Amazon drastically improved the Kindle 3, made it smaller and lighter, and slashed the price of the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi to just $139, so Kobo’s pricing advantage is gone. For the same price, I can’t see getting the Kobo 2 over the Kindle 3, considering the Kindle’s extra features and better e-book store and support from Amazon.
On the other hand, readers who are loyal to Borders, or who want to read library e-books can consider the Kobo 2 against the new Sony E-Readers, and the Kobo compares fairly well against the Sonys, considering the Kobo 2’s lower price and Wi-Fi connectivity.
UPDATE: Read my hands-on Kobo Wireless review here.